4
Oct

Applications now open for fourth cohort of elite CommonwealthFirst SME programme

 CWF EC

100 companies to be selected in advance of Commonwealth Summit next April.

Today the CommonwealthFirst programme formally opened applications for its fourth cohort intake of UK SMEs. The programme’s mission is to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to trade and invest across the Commonwealth; a market comprising 52 English speaking countries with a combined population of 2.2 billion – at least 60% of whom are under the age of 30 – and a combined GDP in excess of US$10 trillion.

The Commonwealth Factor, with its shared language, complementary legal systems and business practices, helps to reduce trade costs by around 19% between member countries. By 2020 Commonwealth trade is expected to double to US$1 trillion and the CommonwealthFirst programme will be at the forefront of this new wave of Commonwealth businesses.

This prestigious programme has been developed through a partnership between the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) and Royal Mail with support from i-genius as implementation partner. Export Champions are provided with unique access and support in their quest to win new business in fast growing Commonwealth markets. Their success is showcased as an encouragement to the wider UK business community.

Building on the significant success of the three current cohorts, the fourth cohort will be selected to become Commonwealth Export Champions according to their ambitions, innovative and flexible approach, potential for overseas growth and export-readiness.

Lord Marland, Chairman of the CWEIC, said “as we select the final companies to be part of the initial programme we expect standards to be higher than ever. This is the right time for UK companies to be thinking about global opportunities.”

Successful businesses will have the opportunity to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Queensland in Australia and the Commonwealth Summit in London in April 2018. There will also be a Trade Mission to Africa building on previous missions to India, Malaysia, Singapore and a visit to Canada in October. They will also receive expert mentoring as well as access to tailored training and networking events.

SMEs can apply to become a CommonwealthFirst Export Champion via www.commonwealthfirst.org. Applications close on 4th December and the fourth and final cohort of the initial 3 year pilot programme will be announced in January 2018.

21
Sep

Danielle Copperman, Qnola, Export Champion Interview

Danielle Copperman, Founder

Danielle Copperman, Founder

Tell us about the Wake Up Well™ concept.
We are passionate about encouraging and supporting people to wake up well, but not just through a good breakfast. To us, whilst natural nutrition plays a large part in ensuring you feel and live well, there are many other things which can help to reduce the stresses and strains of modern day life, and particularly how we start each day. How you start the day has a profound impact on how the rest of your day unfolds, and through mindfulness and meditation events, online content, and other products, we are passionate to help people enhance their lives and get the most out of them, one morning at a time.

How did the idea for your business come about?
When I began to make changes to my diet I cut out gluten, grains and refined sugar and this left me, a former granola addict, without much choice for a quick, healthy breakfast in the mornings. I began experimenting with other psuedograins such as quinoa and buckwheat, and that’s how Qnola was born. There was nothing truly healthy on the cereal market and I wanted to change that.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Being a small business with a small team, there are many difficulties but overcoming them is just part of building the business and expanding. I see all difficulties and important lessons and guidance. To begin with, I made all the products by myself as well as distributing them to suppliers and individuals, and this was by far the biggest struggle to overcome, but it got me to where I am today and has made me more involved and more appreciative of the process!

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18
Sep

Karl Bond, Forest Gin, Export Champion Interview

Karl Bond, Director

What makes your Gin unique from everything else that is out there?
Forest Gin is the only gin in the world to have been awarded Two Separate Double-Gold Medals at the San-Francisco World Spirit Awards. We distill combinations of Organic, foraged and carefully sourced ingredients to create the spirit, before blending with fresh water from our own spring in the Peak District. These ingredients, combined with our English Porcelain bottle, really give our Gin unique qualities that we are very proud of.

Any good foraging tips that budding gin makers should be aware of?
Always get the landowners permission. Leave plenty for others. Never pick fruit below waist height (figure that one for yourselves!!)

How did the idea for your business come about?
We were home distillers. Making spirits & drinks for a bit of fun and our own enjoyment! It evolved from friends & family wanting to buy a bottle, to now being a very well respected spirits brand.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Licencing and red-tape. There are very strict regulations in the UK for distilling.

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14
Sep

Shalom Lloyd, Naturally Tribal, Export Champion Interview

Shalom Lloyd

Shalom Lloyd, Managing Director

How did the idea for your business come about?
In 2014, I gave birth to a beautiful set of twins! One of my twins, Joshua, was covered in eczema from birth and I spent months combining lotions, creams, emollients, teas – you name it – to stop his ‘scratch until drawing blood’ dilemma. I tapped into my African heritage and started to mix raw, ingredients from Africa – the scientist in me took over, experimenting and testing. Using these natural ingredients and once I stumbled on the right formula, it miraculously only took three days for Joshua’s skin to become what it should have been at birth. Naturally Tribal Skincare was born out of this personal experience and experimenting. Through the combination of my African heritage mixed with an English twist, I solved my child’s skincare problem naturally WITHOUT CHEMICALS and felt like a ‘hero’ mum.

Today, we use Mother Nature’s gifts to create natural products, manufactured and tested in the UK with our ingredients ethically sourced, while supporting and empowering African women. We are supporting infrastructure to ensure quality and working conditions, particularly for the women of Essan, Niger State in Nigeria!

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
In April 2017, The Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd Research & logistics Coordinator, Zantie O’Connell was sent an email from Royal Mail’s ‘Click & Drop Support’ team which was titled ‘Become a CommonwealthFirst Export Champion with Royal Mail’. We have outstanding innovative products and a great story to tell plus the benefits we would gain as an SME such as mentoring, training, profiling and branding to help our company access the 52 Commonwealth countries was too good to miss. Seeing this as a programme which aligns with our vision for the company, the team agreed to move forward with our application and we are certainly glad that we did!

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11
Sep

Mohammed Saleem Latif, ePortfolios Ltd, Export Champion Interview

Mohammed Saleem Latif

Mohammed Saleem Latif, Managing Director

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
I was looking to expand the business by incorporating teaching standards from countries apart from the UK when I came across the Commonwealth Standards Framework for Teachers & School Leaders. This led me to the CWIEC website which, in turn, took me to the Commonwealth First Export programme.

As I had an innovative solution that could potentially help 52 countries document and evidence their professional teaching standards on one platform, I had nothing to lose and very much to gain by becoming involved with Commonwealth First.

How did the idea for your business come about?
During teacher training we were required to submit an ePortfolio of evidence so that our School Mentor could assess our teaching performance and our University Tutor could judge whether to grant a teaching qualification. This was such a laborious process for all concerned that I decided to develop the online ePortfolio based on my own experience.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Converting the ePortfolio idea into a working solution was the greatest challenge. Having achieved this, the next challenging task was finding, connecting with and convincing key decision makers in universities and government to adopt the solution.

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7
Sep

Sarah Holmes, Merrythought, Export Champion Interview

Sarah Holmes, Director

How did the idea for your business come about?
Business already established – founded in 1930 by Great Grandfather

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Production capacity and allocation of other resources/time
Product compliance and labelling requirements
Ensuring landed price competitiveness – shipping and duty costs
Intellectual property protection

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
Invested in and improved internal systems and procedures
Improve product design and narrowed product ranges
Streamlined supply chain
Investment in PR and Social Media
Developed a corporate and bespoke service Read more

4
Sep

Ray Bird, Early Bird Ventures, Export Champion Interview

Ray Bird, Director

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
One of the biggest challenges we face dealing virtually only online is credibility. Again, dealing with customers, who maybe on the other side of the world requires a great deal of trust. A benefit of our product is that a new customer can try our product for just a few pounds. In addition, our eBay shop has helped us to gain credibility further afield as the customer is covered by the ebay guarantees. Once the customer has tried our service & wants larger quantities or a more customised shopping experience, our office & our website serves them well, at their convenience.

How did the idea for your business come about?
20 years ago I helped a manufacturer of metal Sealing washers ‘break’ into the UK market, selling virtually exclusively to the larger wholesalers . However, times have changed: garages no longer focus on single make vehicles, car manufacturers have been bought and sold and many manufacturers install other manufacturers engines. The upshot of all these factors is that garages don’t know which parts they need, don’t necessarily need a large quantity of any one part as they now repair whatever comes through the doors that day, and finally don’t know how to get the parts quickly and efficiently. This is particularly true of our export markets, where even the main dealers don’t have the essential parts. This is where we help, offering an ecommerce solution, advice, guidance and delivery worldwide.

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31
Aug

Katherine Gubbins, Goodness Gracious Foods, Export Champion Interview

Katherine Gubbins, Founder

How did the idea for your business come about?
I felt we needed to improve the way we feed our babies and children – teach them, via their parents, about good food and the benefits food brings to us. Wellbeing and health for the family is key.

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
MY ITA – we export anyway and thought this would be a great opportunity, particularly with some of the countries included.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Going up against the big customers with knowledge and vast experience of how to do it.

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29
Aug

Paul Fletcher, Dura Composites, Export Champion Interview

Paul Fletcher, Sales Manager

How did the idea for your business come about?
Dura Composites was established in 1996 when the company first began selling fibreglass grating for use as anti-slip walkways in the Marine and Industrial sectors. Over the past 20 years the product range has expanded to include Glass Reinforced Plastic Trench Covers, Profiles, Handrail, Stair Treads and the market-leading Dura Deck and Dura Cladding made from low-maintenance Composite Timber. The company’s mission is to supply pioneering composite product solutions that inspire new ideas and promote safety, durability and longevity across a range of industries. All products offer customers a low life cycle cost thanks to their long life expectancy and also low maintenance requirements.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
The use of composites versus traditional materials does require a change of mindset for some customers and posed challenges for us in the early days of our business. We have worked hard to educate potential customers as to the core benefits – for example there is a perception from some clients that GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) is not as strong as concrete, whilst in reality it offers an incredible strength to weight ratio.

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24
Aug

Julia Glenn, Extremis Technology, Export Champion Interview

Julia Glenn, CEO

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Trusted introductions to potential licensees or end users (as demand from these will bring about a licensee) across the Commonwealth.

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
We were introduced to John Pemberton-Pigot by or NED, Roy Newey. John suggested we apply for the cohort as he was inspired by our products and business model.

How did the idea for your business come about?
The products were invented in response to seeing millions of people across the globe live for extended period in tented accommodation. Since we have started trading we have also recognised the commercial value of our products, and our licensees bring us new uses for our products on an almost weekly basis, within their territories.

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